Really sad news to report this afternoon folks. Wonderful character actor James Karen, best known for his comedic role in Return of the Living Dead died yesterday at 94!
No reports at to the cause of his death, but at age 94, I’m sure it was natural causes.
Another role horror fans will remember Karen from was his role as Mr. Teague, in Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist from 1982. He was Craig T. Nelson’s boss in that film as the developer who moved the cemetery’s headstones — but not the bodies.
He will be best remembered by fans as the hilarious Frank in 1985’s The Return of the Living Dead.
You may not have known his name but you sure as hell knew his face. He appeared in over 200 films and Television shows throughout his seven-decade career in Hollywood.
His credits are far too numerous to mention them all but some of his most notable roles that he appeared in were As the World Turns (TV Series) (1956), Starsky and Hutch (TV Series) (1975), The Waltons (TV Series) (1975), The Bionic Woman (TV Series) (1976), All the President’s Men (1976), Capricorn One (1977), The China Syndrome (1979), Dallas (TV Series) (1982), M*A*S*H (TV Series) (1983), Little House: The Last Farewell (TV Movie) (1984), Wall Street (1987), Nixon (1995), and many, many others.
He also made a generous contribution to our beloved genre with numerous appearances in such films and TV series as Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster (1965), The Invisible Man (TV Series) (1975), Time Walker (1982), The Powers of Matthew Star (TV Series) (1983), Invaders From Mars (1986), Return of the Living Dead II (1988), Girlfriend From Hell (1989), The Willies (1990), The Unborn (1991), Congo (1995), Piranha (1995), Dark Skies (TV Series) (1997), Joyride (1997), Apt Pupil (1998), The Nightmare Room (TV Series) (2001).
Karen was born Jacob Karnofsky on Nov. 28, 1923, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the son of Russian-born Jewish immigrants. He was taken to the movies to read the titles on the silent films for his father, an illiterate coal miner.
In Poltergeist (1982), co-written by Steven Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper, Karen played the real-estate developer who built the California planned community of Cuesta Verde on top of a former cemetery. The spirits underneath the home of the family of one of his employees (Craig T. Nelson) were not thrilled.
In the low-budget horror comedy The Return of the Living Dead, Karen starred as the manager of a medical warehouse who inadvertently releases a gas that re-animates the dead. He said it was the most fun he ever had in making a movie.
In a 2006 interview, Karen noted that he helped write the ending for his character.
“It was the deal where he figures out he’s becoming a zombie and decides to incinerate himself in the crematorium,” he said. “He kisses his wedding ring as he goes in. It was a very emotional scene, but it also got me out of being one of the rain-drenched zombies milling around outside the place at the end of the film. I didn’t really want to do all that muddy stuff.”
All of us here at Horror Patch would like to offer our sincerest condolences to James Karen’s family and friends during this most difficult time.
As horror fans, he enriched our lives immensely with his wonderful roles in so many films and TV shows that we love. James will be sorely missed but his roles will keep his memory alive for generations to come. Go in peace, kind sir!
R.I.P. James Karen November 28, 1923 – October 23, 2018
Source: The Hollywood Reporter